June 25, 2018
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State eyes Enfield-Howland bridge repair

The Rt 155 bridge over the Penobscot River connecting Howland and Enfield. (Bangor Daily News/Gabor Degre)
By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

Like its sister bridge across the Piscataquis River, the Enfield-Howland bridge over the Penobscot River on Route 155 will be replaced or rehabilitated, officials said Friday.

The Maine Department of Transportation has allocated $625,000 for preliminary bridge study and engineering, DOT project manager Steve Bodge said.

DOT officials told leaders from Enfield and Howland during a Sept. 15 meeting in Howland that “it is not a question of if it will be replaced; it is a question of when,” Howland Town Manager Jane Jones said Friday.

Exactly what needs immediate replacement is clear, but what bridge parts could last for another decade or two is not, Bodge said.

“It is in generally OK shape, but there are certain things definitely in need of a fix immediately,” he added. “Generally, we have a poor-conditioned deck, the part we drive on, and we have some [erosion] conditions at the abutments and piers. We definitely would be fixing those two items in any case.”

The superstructure, or truss, is in satisfactory shape, while the substructures are in fair condition, Bodge said.

With the bridge study not yet complete, it is impossible to tell exactly how much the work will cost, but estimates range in the millions of dollars for a renovation, which could add up to 20 years of life to the bridge, and tens of millions for a total replacement, which would presumably last 80 to 100 years, Jones and Bodge said.

T.Y. Lin International of Falmouth will study the bridge and make recommendations by the spring, Jones said.

Enfield Town Manager Michael Pearson said DOT officials indicated that up to 80 percent of the project will be funded with federal dollars.

With some of its piers dating back to 1876 and its last major overhaul in 1946, the 900-foot span has certainly given taxpayers their money’s worth, Jones said.

Yet the bridge is very narrow, and a wider, more modern structure such as the one to be built this spring over the Piscataquis would be safer. It would allow for more recreational and economic uses, such as snowmobile and ATV passage, Jones said.

The idea, Bodge said, is to maintain safety first while finding the most economical way to proceed.

“The bridge might need to be entirely replaced 20 years from now with only a small fix being required at present,” he said. “When we do the work, we want to make sure we’re spending our money wisely. If certain parts of the bridge have life left, we want to get as much out of them as we can.”

Installation of the new $10 million Howland bridge across the Piscataquis will begin in the spring, with project preparation work already under way.

When it is finished in 2012, the three-span deck and girder bridge won’t need to be entirely replaced until at least 2112, officials have said.

The project’s receiving yard and office near the site and the demolition of an old garage at LaGrange Road and Coffin Street have been finished, Jones said.

Under the DOT-approved plan, the old bridge will be used until 2012 and razed in 2013, with the new bridge standing between the old one and the dam nearby.

Construction will start this spring with the building of temporary structures, abutments and bulkheads, which will allow contractors to get on the river.

A crane and barge will help crews install cofferdams, metal boxes driven into the river bottom that the crews will use to dig out soil to get to the bridge bedrock, or ledge, before they are pumped free of water, contractors have said.

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